Urban Institute hosted an Urban Policy Roundtable to highlight new strategies for metropolitan governance in a rapidly urbanizing world, as part of a series sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center and International Housing Coalition. The event featured presentations on the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals and their recent progress, as well as US preparations for the Habitat III Conference to take place in Quito in October 2016.
The roundtable also featured two reports published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) this week. This research focuses on the structure of metropolitan authorities across several industrialized countries, and suggests that local governance arrangements have a real impact on environmental sustainability and economic progress. Highly fragmented regions with multiple political jurisdictions and administrative functions appear to limit productivity, while less fragmented areas often experience stronger and more sustainable economic growth. The “mismatch between functional boundaries and administrative boundaries” creates frictions and inefficiencies within metropolitan areas that reduce productivity. The presence of a metropolitan governance structure can mitigate the impacts of regional fragmentation and improve economic growth.
Rudiger Ahrend, who supervised this research as Head of Urban Policy at the OECD, discussed how the findings help us to understand when and how metropolitan areas can maximize the benefits of urbanization, with examples from several OECD countries. Urban’s Charles Cadwell and Rolf Pendall identified several next steps for comparative research on metropolitan governance, including the need to further explore the mechanisms behind the trends described in the OECD reports, to examine the impact of political fragmentation on social inclusion and regional equity, and to better understand how metropolitan governance can improve coordination in rapidly growing cities in developing countries.